BY PAMELA KEECH
This may be the only store in town that sells both books on genealogy and jars of jam. Not to mention peanut brittle, wooden nickels, and four sizes of calico sunbonnets.
The gift shop at the Monroe County History Center (202 E. 6th St.) is a bit of a miracle, having been run solely by volunteers since it opened in 1980. The Center’s mission calls for a museum store, so two history lovers, Kathy McFall and Kitch Somers, stepped up and took on the challenge. When Somers left to open a quilt shop, Mary Lee Deckard took her place.
Deckard and McFall learned the museum shop business by visiting museums all over the country, getting ideas for what to sell. Deckard now does most of the buying, arranges merchandise, and greets visitors.
Besides Dillman Farm preserves and Daddy Bob’s Peanut Brittle, locally made products include Earth Drops Soaps in beguiling scents like Rosy’Ann’s Garden, Indian Summer, and Sweet Olive, and note cards by Drummond Mansfield, Mary Busse, and Jane Jensen.
Jewelry is by Bloomington artists Terry Taylor and Maryrose Wampler. Ceramic bowls and pitchers come from Clay City Pottery, which has been in business for more than a hundred years.
Indiana authors abound, with Gene Stratton-Porter, Scott Russell Sanders, and James Alexander Thom well represented. There are many books on local and Indiana history, with a section devoted to the limestone industry and another on Abraham Lincoln.
Cookbooks compiled from favorite recipes include Tastes of Monroe County and the James Whitcomb Riley Cookbook.
The genealogy area contains Monroe County Historical Society publications listing marriage, probate, veteran, and cemetery records (available as hard copies or on CDs).
Used books are also in the gift shop. They are donated and some are quite old, with brittle pages and lacy inscriptions that recall holiday celebrations a hundred years ago or more. Yearbooks from IU and Bloomington High School are filled with photos of vintage fashions and frolic.
Kids will enjoy the nostalgic toys and games, dolls, paper-doll books, and wooden models of cabins and windmills. An old gumball machine dispenses marbles, a penny a piece.
For information on how to become a member of the History Center, how to volunteer, or where to drop donations, visit the Center’s website, monroehistory.org, or call 332-2517.